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Naturally Resistant

An international team led by Academy of Athens immunologist Evangelos Andreakos and colleagues at Rockefeller University, Utrecht University, and elsewhere are searching for genetic contributors to SARS-CoV-2 resistance, Smriti Mallapaty reports in Nature News.

The team plans to study 1,000 or more individuals from COVID-19-discordent partnerships with similar exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 viruses but distinct infection patterns — an approach that Andreakos and his co-authors (including members of the COVID Human Genetic Effort) described more fully in a Nature Immunology perspectives article published in mid-October.

"The team of co-authors from 10 research centers across the world, from Brazil to Greece, have already recruited some 500 potential candidates, who might fit [the] criteria," Mallapaty writes. "And since the publication of their paper less than [two] weeks ago, another 600 people, including some from Russia and India, have contracted them, nominating themselves as possible candidates."

The investigators speculated that a range of genetic alterations may contribute to COVID-19 resistance, he notes, from forms of the ACE2 host receptor that are less amenable to interactions with SARS-CoV-2 to distinct immune responses at viral entry points in the nose and elsewhere.

"Previous studies have shown that possessing certain genetic variants can increase susceptibility to tuberculosis. These genes generally encode proteins that are involved in the immune response," Deep Shukla writes in a related Medical News Today story out last week. "Similarly, scientists have found mutations in genes that are involved in or influence the type-1 interferon response in people with severe COVID-19."

The project was also the focus of a Stat News article in August, which touched on viral resistance work underway or previously reported by members of the team, including a preprint study by University of São Paulo genetics researcher Mayana Zatz and colleagues that used exome sequencing to search for SARS-CoV-2 resistance factors in individuals from 86 Brazilian couples discordant for symptomatic COVID-19 disease.